Thursday, October 02, 2008

Art & Culture: 100 Road Movies by Jason Wood

If I were to compile a list of road movies -- or any other kind, for that matter -- it would be tempting to try and make it a sort of best of. Filmmaker and writer Jason Wood resists that temptation in 100 Road Movies (BFI), something he explains in his introduction:
I would argue that one of the objectives of any kind of “list” or guide style of book is to stimulate debate, conjecture and hopefully, if only very occasionally, agreement.
And so you have the films you would expect -- Wim Wenders Kings of the Road from 1976, for example; The Grapes of Wrath from 1940 and Thelma and Louise from 1991 -- alongside movies you might not have expected or, in fact, would not have thought of or even known about at all. Rob Reiner’s The Sure Thing from 1984 numbered among these for me. If I’d ever heard of this film, I’d forgotten about it, and I’d surely never seen it. “A witty, 1980s teen variation of It Happened One Night,” writes Wood, “the affectionately regarded The Sure Thing was an early success for Capra-loving director Rob Reiner.”

The Sure Thing is notable, also, for the introduction of an 18-year-old John Cusack in the first of what would became a familiar role for him. He plays, as Wood puts it, a sour-faced cynic who still manages to charm and engage his audience.

Though Oliver Stone’s 1994 Natural Born Killers does not immediately jump to mind when you think “road movies,” in so many ways, it really is, and it’s here.

Obviously, I don’t have the space here to comment on any but a very few of Wood’s choices, but though the book is fairly tiny, it’s also quite excellent. And, just as the author desired, at least some of the 100 films he’s chosen to include are sure to spark some debate and conversations with fellow film buffs.

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